Zim court imposes sanctions on Chin’ono, gags media from covering prison ordeal

HARARE Magistrate Ngoni Nduna on Wednesday 12 August 2020 barred media practitioners and the public from covering and following proceedings in a Zimbabwean courtroom in the matter in which freelance journalist Hopewell Chin’ono will testify on the state of conditions at Chikurubi Maximum Prison.

Magistrate Nduna ruled that the evidence that Chin’ono will give in
court may jeopardise security at Chikurubi Maximum Prison if
journalists and the public are allowed to cover and follow proceedings
as the freelance journalist gives his testimony.

The Magistrate’s ruling came after prosecutor Whisper Mabhaudhi filed
an application seeking to bar Chin’ono from giving testimony in an
open court but in camera.

Although Chin’ono’s lawyers led by Beatrice Mtetwa, Gift Mtisi and
Roselyn Hanzi of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, had opposed the
state’s application arguing that it is in the public interest for
media practitioners to cover proceedings in open court and for the
public to be present as they were potential prisoners, Magistrate
Nduna ruled otherwise.

Chin’ono had his bail appeal dismissed on Thursday 6 August 2020 by
High Court Judge Justice Tawanda Chitapi, who ruled that Magistrate
Nduna had not erred nor misdirected himself when he denied him bail in
July.

This forced his lawyers to file a fresh freedom bid, which is set to
be heard and determined by Magistrate Nduna, based on changed
circumstances as the planned date for the anti-government protests had
passed and that the freelance journalist was being ill-treated in
prison and is at risk of contracting coronavirus as he is not allowed
to wear personal protective clothing. Chin’ono was arrested by
Zimbabwe Republic Police on Monday 20 July 2020 and charged with
incitement to participate in a gathering with intent to promote public
violence, breaches of peace or bigotry as defined in section 187(1)(a)
of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act as read with section
37(1)(a)(i) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

The award-winning freelance journalist was also charged with
incitement to commit public violence as defined in section 187(1)(a)
as read with section 36(1)(a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and
Reform) Act. Prosecutors alleged that Chin’ono incited people to
revolt against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration during
some planned anti-government protests called for on 31 July 2020.

Chin’ono, according to prosecutors, allegedly posted various messages
on his Twitter account using the handle @daddyhope between May 2020
and July 2020 calling upon Zimbabweans across the country to engage in
acts of public violence against the government on 31 July 2020.

The journalist allegedly posted several messages on Twitter which
read; “@Ngarivhume and many others have come to put their hands up and
said they will lead anti-looting demo on 31 July”, “Zimbabwe will
never be free from looters through elections it is just a waste of
time” and “If you feel like shouting#zanuPFMustGo and Mnangagwa and
his regime has failed, how they will go will be determined by history
and yet Mnangagwa refuses change will come by any means.”

Prosecutors alleged that by posting such messages Chin’ono intended to
disturb the peace, security or order of the public.